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Ecolab CEO: Alluring market and business environment

Print E-mail China Daily, June 8, 2013
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Douglas Baker Jr, Ecolab's chairman and CEO, has a "quite favorable" first impression of Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan province.

"The infrastructure is very good. It has a very large airport. I would also say the driving is fairly easy. I got in here about 7 o'clock last night, but traffic was not difficult."

The 54-year old flew in from the United States on June 5 for the 2013 Fortune Global Forum underway from June 6 to 8 that has gathered more than 600 participants including CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies, entrepreneurs, government leaders and scholars.

Baker, though a frequent traveler to China, said it was his first time to visit Chengdu and have not got a chance to see its sights despite his company has made presence in the western city for almost two decades.

"We have had a sales office here since 1995 to serve our customers in western China," said Baker, adding that most of its 40 employees are locally hired.

Headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ecolab is a global provider of water, hygiene and energy technologies and services to food, energy, healthcare, industrial and hospitality markets.

"We are a food safety and water technology company. What we seek are large population centers, large food production centers and certainly that includes Chengdu," said Baker.

"Since Chengdu is a city where a lot of people go out and it has a culture that takes great pride in its food and hospitality in terms of restaurants and hotels, it is a very natural market for us."

Ecolab's general manager for greater China Wang Tie said the company has tens of thousands of customers in the city ranging from New Hope Group, a Chengdu-based agribusiness operator, to hotels and restaurants.

Despite a relatively small base, he said the city growing faster than most others in China.

"Chengdu is growing at almost double the average growth rate nationwide if you would like to put it in a quantitative way," said Wang, adding that "we have seen it for quite a while."

Looking to the future, Baker said the city will play an increasingly important role in the company's performance in the Chinese market.

"Chengdu was a priority market for us even before the Fortune Global Forum and it will remain our priority."

He also said his company will continue to invest in the city and fuel its growth because "capitalizing on the west expansion strategy is going to be important".

In addition to sales and service offices, Ecolab has also established a logistics center in Chengdu due to the growing local market and the city's easy access to surrounding regions, said Wang.

"As the hub of western China, from here you can easily go to Chongqing, Xinjang, or Tibet."

Since establishing itself on the Chinese mainland in 1987, the company has built a series of facilities, mostly in eastern regions.

"We will need more in the future and those will be in the west," said Baker.